A Travellerspoint blog

Israel Day 6


sunny 60 °F

Today was our first full day in Jerusalem! As expected, this city is very different from Tel Aviv, known as the secular hub of Israel. After breakfast we went to the city of David, king David’s palace and city and the place of Jerusalem’s historic nucleus. Some of these locations were excavated only 10 years ago and have recently been opened to the public. We started our day outside of Hezekiah’s palace to see the ancient ruins and learn about the old city. Perhaps it’s childish of me, but the thing I enjoyed most was the ancient toilet. I love the humanizing element it brings to these people, also it’s kind of funny to imagine ancient soldiers pooping. The ancient excrement they found helped determine the diet of the ancient Jews and other cultural cues.

After walking all around this area we got to the entrance of Hezekiah’s tunnel, an ancient water system used to provide fresh water to the city even under times of siege. We had the opportunity to walk through it, but I respectfully passed. As delightful as walking through waist high water in a shoulder width tunnel underground sounds, I decided to walk the dry tunnel nearby. I was a little claustrophobic, but I’m proud that I made it through.

The temple is massive and impossible looking. The stones, the smallest of which is 2 tons, are fitted together so closely that the spaces between them are minuscule even after all these years. Behind us were small cave like areas In the wall where merchants sold sacrificial animals to pilgrims. The stones where the ancient Jews, and almost certainly Jesus, stood are over twenty feet under where the modern city sits today. We had a few moments to sit on the southern steps of the temple and imagine the ancient psalms in action.

Just before lunch we went to one of the most iconic spots in Israel: the western wall. The entrance was marked by a beautiful stone sign and a guarded section with metal detectors. According to an informational sign, Jewish leaders have officially declared that metal detectors don’t violate Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest that begins Friday evening and doesn’t allow the use of electricity). Once we were inside we got to see the wall itself. The crevices between the rocks are stuffed with little written prayers, and Jews of all denominations could be seen praying. Some wore simple skull caps, others wore long black coats and tall fur hats. Although it’s not my tradition, I have a lot of respect for the Jewish tradition and their commitment to God.

Lunch in the Jewish quarter was next. I elbowed through a bunch of people to get something I don’t remember the name of. There was fried chicken, French fries, and a bunch of other stuff wrapped up and in pita bread. It was soooo good. Immediately afterward we walked up to Zion’s gate, a beautiful gate at the edge of the Jewish quarter that is riddled with bullet holes. It’s sobering to see the remnants of conflict all around the city.

We had a brief time to rest back at the hotel before the last scheduled part of our day: Shabbat dinner with an observant Jewish family in the West Bank. Although learning about ancient Jewish history is interesting, I'm personally fascinated with the current political climate and social life. The family that hosted us consisted of two grandparents, a mother and a father, and four children. The oldest child is in college and met us at the end of the road where the bus dropped us off. They welcomed us into their home, which is small but has a beautiful view of different parts of the city. Due to shabbat rules, the family had to cook the entire meal earlier in the day and keep it warm under towels and a hot plate. There is a distinct progression of rituals in shabbat that include songs, tearing bread and dipping it into salt, ritual hand washing, and blessing each of the children. The food was really good as well. Although I was still full from lunch, I tried to taste each dish. I'll try to include a picture of the shabbat rules we witnessed there. It was an experience I'll never forget.

Shabbat shalom!


Posted by emschroen 07:18 Archived in Israel

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